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UN High Commisioner Highlights Gulf's Poor Record on Migrant Rights

On April 19, 2010

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillai spoke out against the GCC's poor record on upholding the rights of migrant workers during a keynote speech at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology in Jeddah today.

According to a press release from the UN she highlighted a number of areas of concern in the region, including the confiscation of passports and discriminatory labour laws:

Reports “consistently cite ongoing practices of unlawful confiscation of passports, withholding of wages and exploitation by unscrupulous recruitment agencies and employers,” she said. “The situation of migrant domestic workers is of particular concern...” She drew attention to their often inadequate living and working conditions and to the fact that they are sometimes “unable to obtain access to judicial recourse and effective remedies for their plight.”

She urged those States that had not yet replaced the sponsorship system known as Kafala – that “rigidly binds migrants to their employers, enabling the latter to commit abuses, while preventing workers from changing jobs or leaving the country” – with updated labour laws to do so at the earliest.

Pillai is on a 10-day tour of the 6 GCC countries to observe the human rights situation.